Sell a staycation

I’m doing a fair bit of travel this summer, but I’m also enjoying the ubiquitous “staycation.” Since deciding to stay in Hong Kong versus moving back home to New York, I’ve been obsessed with the idea of experiencing the city I live in in new ways. And others are starting to do the same.

This past weekend was the perfect example. We checked into the Hyatt Regency Hong Kong Sha Tin, only about 40 minutes from the city — close enough you can enjoy a one-night stay and not feel like you’re losing time in transit, and far enough you feel like you’re in another city. Some people would argue that “other city” is in China, since the hotel is just minutes from the border to hustling Shenzhen. But if you can look beyond that (or, rather, not look beyond the mountains), what you see is a serene setting in an otherwise chaotic city. So yes, we staycationed in the New Territories. For those of you who don’t know it, it’s an area north of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, a place snooty residents and expats refer to as “the Dark Side,” a place where you “need your passport to enter” and “vaccinations for safety.” Really, the stereotypes only exist because most people are happy living in their bubble on the island.  

So here we were, with a last-minute reservation in hand. A train ride up to the hotel after work on Friday, check-in in the afternoon, a great dinner at the hotel’s Chinese restaurant, a few glasses of wine, a drink at the bar, swim in the morning, breakfast at the buffet, then a three-hour bike ride along the canal where locals kayaked and canoed, a visit to the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery and the Hong Kong Heritage Museum. A late check-out helped us relax during the bike ride, after which we returned, went for lunch and a beer by the pool, took quick showers in the fitness center, grabbed the signature Sha Tin Apple Pie in the lounge (better with a scoop of vanilla ice cream) and hopped on a shuttle bus back to town. We were back before the sky fell and typhoon hit, and rented Hong Kong’s “Infernal Affairs” from Apple TV to round off the weekend. Perfect.  

Today I cracked open one of the fortune cookies I brought back from New York on a recent trip (yes, fortune cookies are the ONE thing you can’t get in Asia) and what it said it was, “It isn’t the years in your life, but the life in your years.” So, live it up. If you can’t get away from town, do something new in your neighborhood. And for hoteliers looking to tap into that local market, here are some suggestions on ways to sell a staycation:

  • Think about activities residents in your city don’t normally get to do. In Hong Kong, for example, fresh air, bike rides, tennis and a swim are simple luxuries. In some cases, a 484-sq-ft (45-sq-m) hotel room is even bigger than a typical Hong Kong flat — but that’s another story entirely. 
  • Go ahead and advertise it as a staycation.
  • Create package prices that are inviting — not discouraging.
  • Offer last-minute deals.
  • Discount the room and hope guests spend in F&B and the spa.
  • Offer door-to-door shuttle service if you’re off the beaten track or in an area where the driving market is limited.  
  • Train your concierge to encourage staycationers to explore and appreciate the local neighborhood. Remember that guests living in your city aren’t going to go for the typical tourism sites. Push local walking tours, markets, small museums or galleries and restaurants they may not try otherwise.  
  • Encourage repeat visits, and reward residents who come back.  

Any other suggestions?